Reigning Queen

Having decided that we were going to get a dog there was still one member of the household who could veto the whole plan.

Cat in tree

Meet Cat. Cat is a 3½ year old neutered black and white female… um, cat. We adopted her when she was seven months old and she has been an only child  cat for the last eighteen months. Until she came to live with us she lived in a house with a dog but since then has had very little canine interaction. I did once see her ‘bounce’ a neighbour’s dachshund who was a similar size to her, I think she was initiating play but as the dog yelped and ran away it’s hard to tell. I’m pretty sure there were no claws involved, despite the yelp.

So Cat has prior residency rights and until we were happy that she would not be too stressed out by having a dog then there was no point in going any further. I’ve lived with stressed cats before – they can develop some really unpleasant habits…

Luckily a friend who lives locally had been through the whole process of adopting a dog a year ago. Lizzie is a very laid back and calm girl who is used to being around cats, so we arranged for her to come and visit in exchange for tea and cake for her owner. Unfortunately, Cat decided to take herself out for the afternoon an hour or so before they were due to arrive and didn’t come home for several hours afterwards so a second visit was arranged.

Second time around the cat flap was locked with Cat on the inside an hour before they arrived. Lizzie walked in and sat down placidly; Cat hissed and tried to leave. In normal circumstances I would have let her, however, in this case the point was to see how she would react so we shut the exits to the room. Unable to leave, Cat hissed again and disappeared behind a chair. Lizzie meanwhile was doing the canine equivalent of whistling innocently, looking anywhere but at Cat so that she wouldn’t inadvertently make eye-contact. After a few minutes I picked Cat up and sat with her on my lap whereupon she pretty soon settled down and went to sleep. A little while after, I got up and placed her on the chair without me, she curled up and went back to sleep; Lizzie decided to follow suit.

Dog and cat asleep

When the time came for Lizzie and her owner to leave and they stood up, Cat opened one eye to watch what Lizzie was doing. Lizzie continued to look anywhere except at Cat in a very ‘I’m not here, just ignore me,’ kind of way.

As you can imagine, we were pretty pleased with the outcome. Cat didn’t seem too bothered by having a dog in the house after her initial surprise so that seemed to be the last obstacle cleared.

 

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How did we get here?

So, that’s a bit of a surprise. Over the past month we have gone from a family 50% firmly for and 50% firmly against having a dog, complete stalemate, to a family who are in the process of adopting a rescue dog.

I should probably explain. I grew up around dogs, my parents had them, as did my much older siblings and their families. Living in a house with a dog was the norm for me. I then spent a few years going through university, finding a job, sharing a house and it wasn’t until I had my own flat, seven years after I left home, that I could think about having anything larger than a hamster or a rat, my substitute pets in the intervening years. However, I was working full-time so a dog was still out of the question and instead I settled for a gorgeous white cat.

Child and dog

 Fast-forward a couple of years and enter Husband, although obviously he went by the name of Boyfriend at that stage. Husband/Boyfriend had grown up with cats and his parents had four of them when I met him. To him cats were the norm and dogs were something that he didn’t identify with and wasn’t particularly keen on. Not that that stopped a dog owned by two of our friends being keen on him. Poogie was a German-Shepherd/Rottweiler cross, not to be trusted with children, cats or other dogs, but he adored Husband and spent many happy hours on his lap, trying to tell him just how much he loved him. In hindsight, I’m not entirely sure that Poogie did a huge amount to further the canine cause in Husband’s mind.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Boyfriend is now most definitely Husband and Son and Daughter have arrived on the scene along with a succession of cats, the latest of whom is a 3 year old black and white female with heaps of personality. Son has never liked dogs, mainly because of their unpredictability and propensity to make loud noises without warning. He’ll put up with other people’s dogs but has always said that he’d prefer not to have one. Daughter, on the other hand is animal mad and would fill the house with mammals large and small. I’m not sure where she stands on reptiles have always felt it’s probably better not to ask.

So we’re at a stalemate. I’ve never stopped wanting a dog and now have Daughter to back me up with her love of anything with four feet and fur. Husband is happy being owned by a cat, thinks that a dog would be too much work and has Son to back him up.

However, a month or so ago we went for a walk in Burnham Beeches. If you’ve never been I’d recommend it, lovely place for a wander on an autumn morning.  It also has a particularly good outdoor café which when we were there was filled with people and their dogs. In one corner a pile of four Old English Sheepdogs, so shaggy that you could only tell how many there were from counting noses as everything else blended into a mountain of black and white fur. In the other corner three Chihuahuas. ‘Nuff said. Daughter started off on her ‘I want a dog, why can’t we have a dog?’ routine when all of a sudden Son dropped the bombshell, ‘Yes, I wouldn’t mind a dog.’ Three heads swivel towards him.

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

And with that ammunition and a perceived majority vote of three to one, Daughter launched a major offensive on Husband, who at the end promised to think about it and changed the subject. True to his word, over the next few days Husband did think about it and made a decision. His decision was not to decide but to pass the decision to me – if I decide to get a dog he’ll go along with it and if I decide not to get a dog, that’s fine by him.

Gee, thanks.

Now I’ve always said I wanted a dog but, let’s be honest, that’s very easy to say when you know it’s not going to happen.  I was now faced with a decision – how much did I really want a dog and really how practical would it be to have one. So I had some major thinking to do, and then some. On the surface it’s a no-brainer. Husband and I both work from home and like to take a walk at lunchtime; Daughter and Son are teenagers (more or less) so old enough to be responsible and we rarely travel abroad; in other words our normal routine is no problem. But it was thinking of the extra stuff: which family and friends we go to stay with occasionally and how feasible taking a dog with us is; how a dog would impact on our holidays; what training we would need to do and where; how much pet insurance would cost. Luckily, my older brother has a lot of experience with dogs, including troubled rescue dogs,  so I phoned him up for a chat, just to get a second, more experienced, opinion.

And then I made my decision.

We’re getting a dog.